27 Nov 2003

Fiji PM says Labour politicking has delayed solution to land lease problems

5:15 pm on 27 November 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the Labour Party has blocked a solution to the expiring land lease problem by politicising it.

Mr Qarase says the government has had a solution to the land problem for more than a year but representatives of the farmers have yet to respond.

He says those who exploit land for their own political self-interest have sown the seeds of suspicion and generated debate which has created uncertainty among farmers.

Mr Qarase says the Labour party response has been clouded by politics in which the farmers are caught in the middle, pushed and pulled and exploited, and then abandoned when it suits them.

Mr Qarase says it is this which has created the chasm between the main communities and brought the sugar industry to the brink of ruin.

He says many Indian leaders have used cane farmers as political fodder to come to power and land is used as a propaganda weapon to serve a communal cause.

Mr Qarase says indigenous Fijians resent their land being exploited in this way and its is not surprising many decide not to renew expiring leases.